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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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Drunk with gun who scared Carlisle shoppers sent to prison to 'dry out'

A drunk who terrified shoppers by sitting outside a Carlisle supermarket with a gun has been sent to prison – to give him time to “dry out”.

Mark Simon Lester had initially been given a suspended prison sentence in February by a junior judge who believed his assurances that he intended to give up drink.

But the 50-year-old former soldier was back at the city’s Crown Court after going on being a nuisance after getting drunk.

And this time Carlisle’s top judge – Paul Batty QC, the city’s Honorary Recorder – told him the best place to dry out would be prison.

“Not only are you an alcoholic, but you are also at times a violent drunk,” the judge said.

Lester, who lives in a flat in Aglionby Street, Carlisle, was given the suspended eight-month prison sentence in February after being caught outside the Tesco store at Rosehill with an air pistol.

Frightened staff and shoppers had called the police after they spotted him sitting on a bench outside the store on August 2 last year.

At one stage Lester – who was “clearly drunk, with his head flopping about” – pulled the gun out and started “messing with the mechanism”, prosecuting barrister Julian Goode told the court.

After his arrest the gun turned out to be an air pistol. Although it was not loaded Lester had several pellets in his pocket.

Lester pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing the gun and ammunition in a public place.

He also admitted carrying a lock-knife, which was found on him when he was searched at the police station.

The court this week heard that just a month after being sentenced for those offences he was arrested for swearing and shouting at police called because of his unruly drunken behaviour in Portland Square.

A fortnight later he was arrested again – this time for spitting at a police officer called to help eject him from the Booze Busters store in Wigton Road after he refused to leave.

And three weeks after that he was arrested again – this time for stealing a bottle of cider from the city’s M&S store.

Lester, who had never been in trouble until he was discharged from the arms with post traumatic stress ten years ago, pleaded guilty to theft and being drunk and disorderly.

His barrister Greg Hoare said: “He doesn’t enjoy drinking – it is something of a compulsion for him.”

Judge Batty ordered Lester to serve the eight-month sentence that had previously been suspended, and added another four months – making a total 12-month sentence – for the shoplifting.

“You need time to dry out,” the judge told him.

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